European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 48–55 | Cite as

Social engagement as a longitudinal predictor of objective and subjective health

  • Kate M. BennettEmail author
Original Investigation


The study aimed to investigate whether social engagement predicted longitudinally objective and subjective physical health. Measures of social engagement, subjective and objective health were taken at three points in time, 4 years apart (T1, T2, T3). Three questions were examined: does social engagement at T1 predict objective/subjective health at T2, does social engagement at T2 predict objective/subjective health at T3, and does social engagement at T1 predict objective/subjective health at T3? Participants were 359 adults aged 65 and over. A fully cross-lagged structural equation model was examined. Social engagement at T1 was found to significantly predict subjective health at T2. However, social engagement at T1 did not significantly predict subjective health at T3, nor was subjective health at T3 predicted by social engagement at T2. Social engagement never significantly predicted objective health. Unexpectedly, objective health at T2 predicted social engagement at T3. Finally, post-hoc analyses suggest that age has a greater influence on social engagement at T2 than at T1. Social engagement is a useful predictor of subjective physical health. However, objective health was not predicted by social engagement—indeed, the converse was the case. It is suggested that the relationship between social engagement and subjective health is mediated by psychosocial factors which may not be present in the social engagement–objective health relationship. In conclusion, the results reflect the complex interplay of objective and subjective health and social engagement as people age.


Social engagement Subjective health Objective health Longitudinal 



The Nottingham Longitudinal Study of Activity and Ageing is supported by grants from The Grand Charity, Help the Aged, the PPP Medical Trust and from the Trent Regional Health Authority. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology, Eleanor Rathbone BuildingUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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